About this time last year, Danny Bowes and Ben Matthews, two fifths of Thunder for the last near enough 25 years, toured the country telling stories and playing some songs acoustically.
Being the Thunder fans we are at RTM when it was announced that they were doing it all over again, we had to go.
So it is that we find ourselves back at The Glee Club to watch Danny And Ben Bend Yer Ear, which is what this evening is being billed as. The problem is, that apart from the fact that we are, just about, the biggest Thunder fans on the planet, there is not a lot else to commend this evening in advance. Acoustic music isn’t RTM’s bag, and we couldn’t claim to be huge fans of stand up comedy either. Nonetheless last year was very enjoyable, so we are back for more.
The format for the evening is an almost exact copy of the 2012 version – although from memory it is slightly longer, clocking in at well over two and a half hours. Bowes tells stories, Matthews is almost the Eric Morecambe to his Ernie Wise (insert your own contemporary reference here…we did say we don’t know comedy!!) and in between the banter, songs break out.
Some of the stories are genuinely funny; one in particular about their appearance on Top of the Pops with Take That was superb, others don’t quite hit the mark, largely it has to be said, because they are a tad scripted. The pair deserve credit too, for keeping the show more or less entirely different from last time around, with only one section, an admittedly funny tale about drummer Harry James, being retold.
The songs meanwhile fall into the same category. Mostly they are different – from memory only “Better Man” was played last year. The Thunder songs – lets be honest this is why we are here – are rapturously received and it is a treat to hear “Englishman on Holiday” and “Back Street Symphony” in this setting. The covers are innovative too, and the jazz version of “War Pigs” (no, really!) works better than you might think.
One area where this was better than last year was in the audience participation stakes. Whereas last time “Blackbird” was just too knockabout, the version of “Unchain My Heart” this time, which saw a chap on a cowbell one side of the room and two others onstage was far better.
Last year we wrote of the evening: “Less of a gig more an informal gathering of friends, you wouldn’t want every concert to be like this – but you are glad this one was.”